Clayton Lucas even has a photo for the cover for his novel, from Iron Post Corner east of Sallisaw of course. Lucas said that, in his fictional writing, he likes to use real places and personalities, although he does admit to changing the names of some persons.
The novel “Iron Post Corner” is Heather’s story.
At nine years old, her world shatters when her daddy’s lifeless body is pulled from the water after he jumped in and saved her. Feeling utterly alone and responsible for his death, Heather has no choice but to relocate to Oklahoma when her mother remarries. Appalled to learn that their new home is a doublewide trailer, Heather succumbs to the reality that the life she has always known in Baton Rouge is over. However, as Heather becomes acquainted with a red headed boy named Tony and his beloved Grandpa Charley, she slowly finds herself surrounded by the love, resilience and redeeming power of family once again.
For years, the three of them are inseparable until suddenly, at the demand of Tony’s new stepmother, Tony’s father takes him back to his mother’s for the last time. Tears stream down Heather’s face as she watches Tony wave through the truck’s rear window until they can no longer see each other. Hurt and embittered by the experience, Tony swears that he will never return, leading Heather to believe that their friendship is not as enduring as she once believed.
More than a decade later and at the threshold of death’s door, Grandpa Charley reveals to Heather the secret identity of his father, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, along with clues to the infamous outlaw’s hidden fortune. Shortly after Grandpa Charley’s passing, just as he predicted, the unbelievable happens – Tony returns to Oklahoma. His return sets in motion Grandpa Charley’s plan, years in the making, to bring Heather and Tony back together. However, they struggle to reconnect as they embark on a journey to determine if Grandpa Charley really recovered the stolen loot or if it is just a wild goose chase designed to rekindle the unyielding bond they shared as children.
Such is the summary, above, of a first novel written by Clayton Lucas, who is Sallisaw’s city manager.
The summary was recently sent to a literary agent who accepted the submission with a promise to respond.
“That’s the hardest part for me,” Lucas confessed, “the waiting, and patience.”
Most literary agents respond in six to eight weeks, and Lucas’ novel was sent just last week, so he has a while to wait.
But it’s taken awhile to get where he is now in his literary career.
Lucas said, “I wrote the first two chapters almost 10 years ago.”
Lucas was working as a police officer at the time, and the time had come for him to move ahead. He said he had a choice to make – a Pennsylvania university where he would major in public administration, and the University of Mississippi at Oxford, where novelists such as William Faulkner and John Grisham have flourished. The Pennsylvania school accepted him. The Mississippi university did not. Although Lucas said he found out later he was among the top candidates at Mississippi.
Life happens, Lucas’ career swelled in public administration, and he was eventually led back to his hometown in Sallisaw. Accompanying him were his wife, Lora, and four children. It’s a busy and happy life, but all lives have hurdles, and the Lucas family must deal with two young children who have juvenile diabetes. Lucas and wife Lora share night-time duties checking on the health of their children. Lucas said he goes to bed at 10 p.m., ready to awake several hours later to check on his boys. Once awake, he said, it’s sometimes hard to fall back asleep.
Lucas found the middle of the night is a good time to finish the novel he had begun almost 10 years ago. And in only six months of midnight scribblings, Lucas had finished “Iron Post Corner.”
A former teacher at Central School, where Lucas graduated, was one of the first to read “Iron Post Corner.”
Cindy Lattimore, now a counselor at Indian Capital Technical Center in Sallisaw, taught Lucas at Central School. And she is impressed by his first novel.
“I enjoyed his book,” she said. “It was really different. It made me wonder if the story was true. It’s not.”
“Iron Post Corner” is hard to put down, Lattimore said.
“I read it in one sitting,” she said. “It kept me engaged. It had me caught up from the very beginning. It had me asking questions. Clay’s plotting is good. I would read more even if I didn’t know him.”
Lattimore said she hopes the novel is published.
“Then we can say we knew him when,” she said.
Even with such praise Lucas knew the next step on the way to publication may be the hardest. Lucas had to find a literary agent. And most agents don’t take on first-time novelists. And publishing companies hardly ever print the works of first timers.
“I even put it on Facebook,” Lucas said, explaining he asked if anyone could put him in touch with an agent. “I found an agent closer that I could believe.”
On a trip to visit in California, Lucas found a friend of a best friend of wife Lora was an agent. And Nelson Literary Agency has agreed to read “Iron Post Corner.” Now all Lucas has to do is await their decision.
“It’s exciting,” Lucas said, grinning, “but the waiting. I’m impatient with the waiting.”
Still, the new novelist isn’t going to let a long summer bother him too much. He has already started a second novel. It will be titled, “Alley Spring.”
“It’s a novel with a historical twist, focused on local oral tradition,” Lucas said.
He explained the next novel is set on the banks of the Current River near Salem, Mo., where Lucas once lived and where Jesse James and gang used to hide out. They also have parts in “Alley Spring.”
Lucas said he isn’t worried about criticism of “Iron Post Corner” or being asked to do rewrites.
“I’m willing to do anything they say. And I don’t care, too much, about the money. I just want to get published,” Lucas said.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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